This past Monday, Shedd’s Right Bite team took part in Chef’s Collaborative second annual Trash Fish Dinner hosted by our Right Bite restaurant partner Big Jones. “Trash fish” is a common term for any seafood that is underutilized, caught as bycatch, or that is considered by some to be undesirable. The term “trash fish” may not conjure up an image of something that you want to see on your dinner plate, but this last Monday five talented chefs proved that these “trash fish” species are anything but garbage. 

Five all-star chefs from Chicago and New Orleans prepared the seven course meal. The chef’s included:

Susan Spicer – Bayona and Mondo (New Orelans, LA)

Phillip Foss – El Ideas

Brandon Baltzley – TMIP

Andres Padilla – Topolobampo

Paul Fehribach – Big Jones

 ceviche verde in green adobo

The first course was a ceviche verde in green adobo, made with lime-marinated blue runner prepared by Chef Padilla. Blue runner is a common “trash fish” in the Gulf States, often caught by sport fishermen targeting snapper and then either thrown back in the ocean or used as bait. Despite what those fishermen may think blue runner is a delicious and flavorful fish that stood out beautifully in this light dish.

 Rob Booz of Chefs Collaborative

Rob Booz of Chefs Collaborative welcomes the guests and introduces Mark Palicki of Fortune Fish and Aislinn Gauchay, Manager of Great Lakes and Sustainability at Shedd, to share interesting facts about the fish being featured.

 curried bluefish with fava beans, banana and tamarind

Chef Foss prepared a curried bluefish with fava beans, banana and tamarind – a unique and delightful combination of flavors.

 black drum “Cha Ca La Vong”

Chef Spicer flew in all the way from New Orleans to wow us with this bright and refreshing black drum “Cha Ca La Vong” style.

 Spanish mackerel

Holy mackerel…was this dish tasty! Chef Fehribach slow-roasted Spanish mackerel and served along with spring vegetables in pickled ramp beurre blanc. While mackerel support a commercial fishery and are not necessarily considered a “trash fish,” they are not yet very popular in the Midwest seafood market. Spanish mackerel are a sustainable choice because they mature quickly and produce large numbers of offspring, making them quite resilient to fishing pressure.

 Great Lakes smelt tacos

Chef Baltzley of TMIP Restaurant at Exterior Farm in Indiana spent the day foraging in the Indiana Dunes with his staff to collect the ingredients for these Great Lakes smelt tacos! Great Lakes smelt are a delicious and local fish. Because they are an invasive species to the Great Lakes, their harvest and consumption is actually considered restorative to the native fish populations.

The “trash fish” entrees came to a close with an 1880 recipe prepared by Chef Fehribach for a barbequed American conger eel with bloody butcher corn hominy, steak o’ lean, cracklings, wild cresses and radishes. The American conger eel used in this dish was caught as bycatch from a pot and trap fishery and may otherwise go to waste or be used as bait; instead it was used in this rich and savory dish for all of us to enjoy.

If you are a sustainable seafood lover, keep your eyes out for the next Right Bite event!